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There may be another spectrum auction in the offing, albeit a private one not operated by the FCC. NextWave Wireless announced Thursday that it has asked two investment banking firms to explore the possibility of selling its extensive spectrum holdings that cover most of the United States.
"We no longer view our spectrum holdings as critical to reaching our product sales objectives and believe that now is the perfect time for us to sell these valuable assets," said Allen Salmasi, CEO and president of NextWave, in a statement. "Since the completion of the recent 700 MHz auction, we have received multiple offers for our U.S. spectrum assets."
Salmasi said the sale of the spectrum would enable NextWave to improve its financial situation and concentrate on developing its wireless products, including WiMax and radio frequency integrated circuit chipsets, WiMax and LTE base station platforms, and mobile TV systems that the company is working on with mobile phone service providers to bring into commercial deployment.
The NextWave spectrum consists of 154 Advanced Wireless Service licenses, 30 Wireless Communication Service licenses, and additional Educational Broadband Service and Broadband Radio Service licenses. NextWave said it's developing systems to tie its disparate spectrum holdings together.
Taken together, the company's spectrum could create a network covering most of the United States. One possible candidate to purchase some of NextWave's spectrum could be T-Mobile, which recently spent $4 billion for a wide swath of AWS licenses. As yet, T-Mobile hasn't unveiled plans for its AWS spectrum.
NextWave said it has hired Deutsche Bank and UBS to work on the sale of its spectrum, although NextWave said there's no guarantee the sale would be successful.
NextWave has had a tortured history with its spectrum. A decade ago it bid more than $4 billion for licenses but filed for bankruptcy protection when it couldn't pay for the spectrum. Later, in litigation that reached all the way to the Supreme Court, NextWave was able to acquire spectrum. A successful spectrum sale now would close the circle on the transaction.
After its announcement, NextWave's stock jumped nearly 30% in early trading Thursday.